COLUMBIA — Missouri sophomore goalkeeper Jessica Gwin’s rating of her performance Friday against Texas came down to a quarter of a foot.
In the 57th minute, the Longhorns potted the game’s lone goal in the top left corner of the net, the shot evading Gwin’s outstretched hand by what she estimated as three inches.
“If I make the save, it was a great night, but other than that it was consistent,” Gwin said.
On a night when the Missouri offense managed a mere three shots on goal, Gwin’s six saves kept the Tigers (5-7-2 overall, 3-3-0 Big 12) in the game throughout its 1-0 loss to the Longhorns at Walton Stadium on senior night.
For Gwin, it all came down to consistency. Including stonewalling easy saves, she made sure the net behind her went undisturbed most of the evening.
In the 29th minute, Gwin hit the deck save a Texas free kick. Minutes later she stuffed out a short hop shot and in the 46th minute she smothered another bouncing shot.
Gwin’s reflexes were put to the test in the 62nd minute when a Longhorn player got the edge of the box on the left side of the net. As soon as the quick, short-range shot hit the air Gwin’s hands went up in front of her body to deflect it harmlessly out of bounds.
But no matter how many shots she turned away, the one that got by still stung.
“If you ask her to hit the shot 10 more times, maybe I save it eight of the 10,” Gwin said. “It was pretty close.”
This season, Gwin is regularly starting in goal for the first time in her career after backing up Tasha Dittamore last year. Gwin saw 66 minutes of action in 2009, but this year she has mostly taken over the reigns at keeper, logging more than 1,000 minutes.
That experience has helped her ease into her new responsibility, including working with Missouri’s defense.
“I think I’m growing into the role and just taking the leadership in the back a lot better than at the beginning of the season,” Gwin said.
“She’s getting more and more confident organizing the defense,” Missouri coach Bryan Blitz said. “She had a good performance tonight.”
After giving up four goals Sunday against Nebraska, Gwin found her groove against the Longhorns.
“I was just a lot more consistent tonight,” Gwin said. “That’s my job this year is to be a consistent keeper. Obviously something I’ve been working on.”
After the Texas goal, Missouri tried to put together an offensive surge, only to come up empty handed time and again. In the 67th minute, senior forward Alysha Bonnick smacked a crossing pass in front of the Texas net, but no Tigers were present to knock it in.
In the end, Missouri just couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity afforded by Gwin’s performance in goal.
“We’ve got to feed off her energy,” freshman midfielder Dominique Richardson said. “She did great tonight.”
Gwin and the Tigers host Texas A&M at 4 p.m. on Sunday in their home finale.